jacquelineb: (conspiracy of cartographers)

So You Want To Be a Wizard by Diane Duane cover

This is another of those significant books published in the year of my birth. Though really it isn’t just the one book, but also Duane’s whole Young Wizards series.

The story: Nita Callahan, hiding out in the library from the local bullies, finds a book titled ‘So You Want To Be a Wizard.’ Intrigued, she takes it home, and quickly discovers it is in fact a manual for how to become a wizard. Her adventures lead her to a new friend and equally new wizard, Kit Rodriguez, an alien pinpoint of light (nicknamed Fred), and the introduction of the series villain, often known as the Lone Power.

This series has gotten to me in ways Harry Potter never really could have. I thoroughly enjoyed the Potter books, but for the most part the characters felt relatively safe. What I think Duane has down is the rather serious choices and decisions that wizards have to make. Wizardry doesn’t exist in a separate, parallel world, but rather wizards act as guardians of a sort to the places they occupy. There is a deep sense of connectedness with everything that goes on, not a new-age hippy kind of way, but a sense that choice and action has an affect and reaction. Duane touches on the spiritual as well; I just loved the idea that what wizardry is about is slowly down entropy (the physical as well as the metaphysical). The end will come, sure, but there is still time for good things in the universe too. My favourite of the series is probably the second, Deep Wizardry, where our protagonists had to make some pretty frightening choices. And the Lone Power makes also for a pretty compelling villain too. If you’re after thoughtful YA fantasy, the Young Wizards books are pretty bloody good.

PS – I had to do a bit of hunting to find this cover, and I wanted this one in particular because it was the one on the edition I first read. :)

And who else is writing for Nanolomo? Click to find out!

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (autumn cliff)

Well, it was bound to happen – missed days of both blogging and of words and of Nanolomo. This is partly a function of the missing days being my work days (and a dance teaching evening as well) – but also partly laziness. The words I can feel… kind of ok about, because they don’t have to be an everyday thing, but I wonder how I could have better managed the posts and reviews. Planning and scheduling I think would have been the way. Since I can schedule posts after all, I could have done a few ahead of time and that way made the whole process easier.

Once I would have felt bad about not having perfectly completed the month, and just thrown in the towel, not have bothered with continuing to post for the rest of the month. These days, I figure perfection is a touch over-rated. So, back onto the wagon for me, and hopefully with more foreplanning for next week’s work days.

At any rate, the Nano website reckons I just need to write 1700 words daily anyway to hit the goal on time, but I’d still rather catch up tomorrow. Perhaps though I can manage just a double hit rather than a triple – 5100 words in a single day is a rather lot! Doable, but may be not sensible. ;)

Am still enjoying the process of discovering the characters, new ones especially. I have a feeling I might have to add another fight into the final act, but I wonder if that might be contorting the plot into being something it isn’t. Well, still got some time before I get to that point.

NaBloPoMo November 2012

So to back-track a bit on the planned meme (and really, I might just grab things from it as the mood takes me), and perhaps to save me a bit of typing, I’ll talk about one of my favourite quotes.

Wherever I am on this earth, I am and shall always be a resident alien.
- Quentin Crisp

Actually, sod talking about it, I’m just going to let it stand as it is. ;)

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (beanstalk)

Galax Arena by Gillian Rubinstein

Another Australian book, this time, what was one of my first forays into science fiction, and also perhaps one of the darker books I encountered. Not dark just because of the theme of its plot – children kidnapped into space to perform high-risk gymnastics so their adrenalin rush would be transmuted to their alien audience – but because of the rather eye-opening social dynamics between the children and teens who had been abducted. You had your three Australian kids – Peter, Joella (the narrator), and Liane – encountering African and Latin American street kids who already know that harsh realities of life, and who aren’t at all sympathetic to our protagonists, who naturally have little understanding of them at first. Throw this into the mix of the gymnastics games (the Galax Arena of the title), where acts are performed without nets, rife with competitiveness, and you have what was an incredibly engrossing story that I read several times growing up.

Being a fairly sheltered child, it was one of the first books I’d encountered characters who were willing to hurt each other if that’s what it took for their own survival, and also, sometimes, taking pleasure in that pain. By the time I’d read it, I’d seen a film adaptation of Lord of the Flies (would only read the book some years later), and it was clear Rubinstein was riffing on some of that, but these children weren’t so much left to their own devices, but also goaded and encouraged to compete by a trainer who remains one of the nastiest characters I can remember reading; Hythe was all charm and tenderness, but also ready for a slap and censure and taunting. The violence of the story as well I remember shocking me too. There was a distinct lack of comfort in the novel – there were moments of it, but it was not a comfortable read overall. And I think at some point in a reader’s life that is inevitable. Galax Arena was definitely that book for me.

And who else is writing for Nanolomo? Click to find out!

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (macaroons)

The Complete Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

I’m not sure how well-known outside of Australia these stories – and art work, especially – are. Even if you didn’t read, or had read to you, the stories of the gumnut babies Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, their friends Ragged Blossom, and Mr Lizard, and those dastardly Banksia men, if you’re Aussie, you know the image of a gumnut baby well. These you can see on the cover here, whose dress and life is based on the gumnuts produced by the eucalyptus tree.

Taking an educated guess, I’d say the illustrator and author of these stories, May Gibbs, was trying to create a kind of Australian fairy in that very Victorian/Edwardian vision of what a fairy was (certainly not the darker Celtic Fae, but rather a kind of sweet creature who hopped from flower to flower). It would be an interesting question to explore – the creation of Australian folklore and tales in the absence of one that immigrant Australia could call its own. How indeed do the gumnut babies sit along side the Aboriginal Australian dreamtime legends and storytelling – not uncomfortably, but Gibbs was certainly, and not surprisingly, employing a more English tradition in her depiction of the Australian bush and Australian nature.

And I think that is good thing. Being blessed with a gift for illustration and wonderful detail (I don’t have a copy of the book on hand but I remember the pictures of both the Australian bush and under water scenes, with clever detail that uses the minutiae of nature in creative ways) though, Gibbs saved it from being merely twee and sweet and gave us something quite beautiful. For me personally, I think it gave a connection back to Australia (as a child, I was brought up in Jakarta) that I think was vital, for it only became a lived experience when was 9.

The stories themselves… I think there was something a little deeper in them than most of the other children’s books I read. There was adventure, but there was emotional connection, and fear, and friendship too. But really, I’d give these to someone just for Gibb’s lovely illustrations. :)

And who else is writing for Nanolomo? Click to find out!

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (beanstalk)

Mog in the Dark by Judith Kerr

Mog sat in the dark and thought dark thoughts.

It strikes me as interesting that one of my favourite books as when I wasn’t even 10 was published the year I was born (1983 – which additionally is when another favourite, So You Want To Be a Wizard, was also published – that’s coming later this month).

But that’s by the by.

Mog was a series of children’s books created by Judith Kerr. I had two when I was a child; Mog and the Baby and Mog in the Dark. The latter was always my favourite – I suspect to the chagrin of my mother, whose tastes has always run more to realism than my leanings towards the fantastical.

Basically, Mog is the family pet who has been left outside in the dark. Hence, Mog sits in the dark and things dark thoughts. Dark thoughts that involve giant mice and big birds with teeth, all out to get poor Mog who just wants to be inside with her people and her supper. As Mog’s imagination and sleepiness start to grow, we find ourselves in a world of Mousedogbird’s and Mog finding the ability to fly, until… she wakes up, and finally gets her supper.

It’s hard to know why exactly I loved this. I think it was partly in Mog flying, partly in her wild imagination that grew her prey into her own predators. I think also the way the words were placed on the page, how the words told the story. (It was intended for very young readers, and I think it has a vocab of only about 50 words.) The repetition and rythmn of it is something that has stayed with me, and on hearing it again recently, it brought back lovely warm feelings, not just of childhood comfort, but of an awakening imagination (which I’m now inflicting on all your poor sods. ;) )

Hearing? Well, if you have a bit of time, a lovely lady has read the book on this YouTube video. Radiohead fans might be especially interested…

And who else is writing for Nanolomo? Click to find out!

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

jacquelineb: (stark raving sane!)

November is upon us. Two months left to go of 2012, and I’m feeling ambitious.

Or insane.

Or both.

It’s been a while since I seriously considered Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). A friend/former colleague commented on Facebook when I posted something about it, and I realised that we’d been working together when I did it in 2008. That was an interesting month. I remember at some point giggling hysterically (and not in a good way) while my boyfriend at the time hugged me and patted me gently. Ok, that makes it sound like I was having a breakdown, and really, that wasn’t it. But it was that moment that the dawning realisation hit me that I wasn’t, writing like that, going to churn out a perfectly formed novel by the end of the month. That’s perfectionists for you, though.

I did, however, make it, and I still look on the writing of it that year as my first ‘proper’ Nanowrimo success. I did it back in 2006 with the very first beginnings of the Dragon Novel (which looks so naive now compared to my plans for it these days), but I didn’t finish the story in those 50,000 words. I did with ‘Touch’ in 2008. It has become a trunk novel since, waiting for my attention to its plot and words (and the line I love to tell people as an example of the dreck Nano results in – ‘He picked up a handful of pens in his hand.’) I think one day I’ll return to it, and the world it is part of.

Funny though, the hook of the plot for ‘Touch’ is strikingly similar to ‘Stitched’, my WIP for Nanowrimo 2012. And I have to confess I’m slightly cheating a bit. I already have 35,000 words for it. That’s the first act and then some. So the plan for November is to get the novel done and to a draft of 85,000 words.

So far, I am on track (see my handy widget):

See also my participant page on the official site.

But Jacqui, that’s not *that* insane, you might say. You’ve done it before, and working full-time rather than part-time too. Shouldn’t this be a walk in the park?

Well, except for the fact that Nanowrimo never is, and also… I’m taking on two other things…

NaBloPoMo November 2012

The first is is NaBloPoMo. This runs every month of the year, the idea being to post on your blog at least once a day (so is National Blog Posting Month). Being a rather inconsistent blogger, this seems like a great idea – and coupling it with Nanowrimo I think works. I can always post my word count if I can’t think of anything else that day.

The second is an initiative of Shanna Germain, NaNoLoMo (National Novel Loving Month). The idea is to write a short review of a book you love each day of the month, to share you love and appreciation of the written word. Despite the ‘novel’ in the title, it is not purely restricted to novels, which is a relief for me, and also gave me the idea for what I’ll do this month. I’m going to be reviewing some of the books that have had an impact on me, starting from early picture books until novels I read this year. I have complied a list of twenty books so far, and there will be more. The trick is, really, not be embarrassed by my loves. That desire to seem sophisticated, or at least of possessing good taste, is strong, but I think for this month I need to keep those voices at bay and remember that our loves are what they are, and embracing them will no doubt make me and others a helluva lot happier.

So… that’s my month ahead. Thus far, Wrimo words done, and this blog posts counts for the blogging. Now off to do a review…

I did tell you I’m insane, right?

Mirrored from jacquelinebrocker.esquinx.net.

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